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PBS in PerilWhither Great Perfomances?


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#1 carbro

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 04:58 PM

The US House of Representatives today passed a budget that eliminates all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports PBS, NPR, and PRI, and their local affiliates. As Neal Shapiro, president of Thirteen, notes, PBS is now the sole producer of arts programming for television. He also notes that the average taxpayer pays a mere $1.35 a year for this service.

If this cut angers you, please contact your senators and your representative in the House. This link* will take you directly to a petition, and the nonpartisan site as a whole is worth at least a look.

http://www.capwiz.co...6970501&type=CO

Thank you!


I know other organizations, including MoveOn and Credo, are circulating Save-CPB petitions, but I'm linking this one, because it is not tied to an organization with any concerns beyond the preservation of federal CPB funding.

#2 California

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 05:13 PM

Signing these petitions is worthwhile, but by far the most effective letters are individually written (not form letters or petitions or e-mails) mailed to your own representative and senators, talking about how these Federally supported programs are important to you -- whether programming, arts education, activities in your community, etc. The Federal funding is actually a small fraction of the budgets for PBS, etc., but it matters.

And please remember that much of the funding for those dance programs is coming from the National Endowment for the Arts:
http://www.nea.gov/g...ioTV/index.html

Please also remember that both Endowments (Arts and Humanities) are slated for cuts of $20 million each for the balance of the fiscal year in the budget just passed by the House. (I was surprised it wasn't more, actually.) We don't have a clear sense of what magnitude of cuts the Republican House is planning for next fiscal year, but this is also something to watch. David Stockman (Reagan's director of OMB in his first term) proposed cutting both by 50% in his first year in office. It ended up as a cut of about 10%, but it was a brutal fight. Back then, some of the most effective push-back came from moderate Republicans who serve on the boards of symphonies, museums, etc. around the country. Do such people still exist? Would the Koch brothers rush to insist that Federal funding for the NEA be preserved? Seems unlikely! Every year, somebody introduces a bill to shut down both Endowments entirely and it's quietly allowed to die. So another thing to watch for in the coming year is a serious effort to close both down.

When we start hearing attacks on the Endowments in 2011, the most effective thing individuals can do, as noted above, is to write individual letters. Those endless petitions and e-mail form letters that come around carry precious little weight in those votes.

I've already read that some states are closing down states arts councils (Kansas, e.g.) and that's another thing to watch in this miserable budget climate.

#3 dirac

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 09:32 PM

Signing these petitions is worthwhile, but by far the most effective letters are individually written (not form letters or petitions or e-mails) mailed to your own representative and senators, talking about how these Federally supported programs are important to you -- whether programming, arts education, activities in your community, etc.


That's a point worth repeating. Write your own letter -- and use regular mail.

#4 richard53dog

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 06:37 AM

Signing these petitions is worthwhile, but by far the most effective letters are individually written (not form letters or petitions or e-mails) mailed to your own representative and senators, talking about how these Federally supported programs are important to you -- whether programming, arts education, activities in your community, etc.


That's a point worth repeating. Write your own letter -- and use regular mail.



I don't think they are worthless but surely an individually written and snailmailed letter makes a deeper impact. But it's all relative. I do a fair amount of signing online petitions and in some cases I've gotten correspondence back from the congressman I've sent the form letter to.

Somewhere there is a weighting system for the effectiveness of the different forms of communicating with elected representatives with online petitions at the least effective end and insisting on making an appointment with the representative to discuss the issue in person at the end of having the greatest impact (but perhaps not the greatest effectiveness!!!) And it'll vary from rep to rep and then it has to mesh with their own personal agenda.

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 07:22 AM

There is an arcane calculus of how public officials weight forms of constituent input. A phone call to a district office represents 1 vote, a form letter via email is 6, a petition, 6.5, and so on. A US Senator of my acquaintance once told me that a personally written letter coming via first-class mail can be considered 8,000, depending on issue.

#6 SandyMcKean

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 08:49 AM

I can't see the defunding of PBS ever becoming law. Sure the House passed this, but that is just Republicans flexing their recently acquired muscles (note this bill passed the House pretty much on strict party lines). The new Tea Party members will insist on provisions like this. Cooler heads will prevail in the Senate.

#7 dirac

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 12:52 PM

Defunding public broadcasting is a long term goal of certain elements of the right wing. It didn't start with the House freshmen and won't end with them.True, Democrats presently hold the Senate and the White House and it's unlikely that all funding will be eliminated, but damaging cuts to PBS' already tiny fraction of the budget are quite possible. Write those letters.

#8 carbro

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 03:32 PM

I can't see the defunding of PBS ever becoming law. ... Cooler heads will prevail in the Senate.


... [D]amaging cuts to PBS' already tiny fraction of the budget are quite possible. Write those letters.

And the same Congress will prepare the next year's budget and is likely to cut yet more ... What's the phrase? Death by a thousand cuts?

#9 dirac

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 12:55 PM

Yes, that's my real concern. Total defunding is unlikely at present, but even cuts made for symbolic value will take much needed money away. An update:

Speaking on WAMU 88.5 today, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that he reiterated his personal support for public broadcasting and hinted that although many in the House of Representatives want to cut funding, it might be part of legislative bargaining.

"It continues to have bipartisan support, but obviously in the House of Representatives there are a significant number of people who think we should not continue to support public broadcasting," Hoyer said. "However, I think there's going to be some give and take on that."



#10 Natalia

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 01:12 PM

I don't think that this will happen. However, I'm not sure that I would miss PBS if it went away, there is so very little classical dance programming on it. One truly original, classical ballet every 2 or 3 years? The last live ballet was the NYCB 'Romeo & Juliet' and that got mixed reviews on this board. Instead, we get lots of Celtic Sister (or Celtic Whatever) and 1960s folk reunions and Antique Roadshows.

NPR radio is another story. I'd miss that.

What I'd love to see is an American equivalent of Russia's Kultura channel but it "ain't gonna happen" in a true market economy.

#11 volcanohunter

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 04:54 PM

However, I'm not sure that I would miss PBS if it went away, there is so very little classical dance programming on it. One truly original, classical ballet every 2 or 3 years? The last live ballet was the NYCB 'Romeo & Juliet' and that got mixed reviews on this board. Instead, we get lots of Celtic Sister (or Celtic Whatever) and 1960s folk reunions and Antique Roadshows.

[size="2"]That's my feeling, too. Is PBS worth saving?
[/size]
[size="2"]I just searched for 'Great Performances' on the schedule of my PBS station and what it yielded, in addition to a couple of (not new) classical music programs, was Rod Stewart, Michael Bublé, Paul McCartney, James Taylor, David Foster, The Police and Harry Connick Jr. (Only two Americans in that group, I notice.) I thought VH1 was invented for the likes of these. Each year PBS gives me 2 hours (perhaps 4 with repeats) of dance out of 8,760, and now they'd like me to go to bat for them?

I just looked over my notes about classical concerts, operas and ballets I intended to watch on TV in January and February. There were 23 programs in total, three of which aired on PBS. (For the other 20 I'm duly grateful to British, French, German, Swiss, Italian and Polish taxpayers.) So what has Great Performances done for me lately? Not a whole lot, unfortunately.

Of course, without PBS American dance companies would most probably be left without any sort television venue, but how would that be any different from the situation in which 99% of them find themselves today? I know that there have been noises from PBS about raising the profile of performing arts and even dedicating one evening a week to them, but you'll pardon me for being skeptical. I've been jilted for too long.

By way of disclaimer, I am an American living north of the border, so I don't have access to secondary or tertiary PBS stations, nor any related radio stations, just the main network, which I hardly ever watch and probably wouldn't miss.[/size]

#12 dirac

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 06:26 PM

Is PBS worth saving?


Yes. Not a hard question for me to answer, actually. There are many things I'd rather not see on my local PBS stations but there is still plenty of programming that I do want to see that would not make it on the air at all save on PBS, and when the station isn't fundraising those shows are still shown without commercials and without the disfiguring cuts that are common on many cable channels. (I prefer to watch the BBC News on PBS rather than the BBC America channel, because there is no barrage of commercials.) PBS also makes available quality programming to people who can't afford cable. I may complain, but I still contribute, and will certainly defend public broadcasting against those who would destroy it or would inflict death by a thousand cuts, as carbro noted.



#13 vipa

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 06:47 PM

The News Hour each night would be a great loss. The question is how much PBS funding comes from the government? I know for NPR it is a small percentage.

What about the idea of "public air space"

#14 4mrdncr

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Posted 24 February 2011 - 02:54 PM

PBS stations get less that 1/3 of their funding from the federal government.
1) I can't afford anything other than basic cable (ie.5 stations--the 3 network local affiliates, PBS, NE Cable News) and NOTHING ELSE.
2) Unless I go to a library or drive to mom's I have no computer access to watch YT because I can't afford to pay for the online connection either.
3) Do you think the only thing I watch (even when I did have cable with 50+ channels) is ballet on PBS?!
4) I also watch NOVA, Frontline, NewsHour, Charlie Rose, Tavis Smily, BBC News, etc.etc.etc. It is the ONLY network on broadcast tv that doesn't talk down to its audience.
5) It is the ONLY network on almost all of US cable that shows complete ballets. Unfortunately, I don't live "north of the border" or in Europe, or Japan, or any other culturally enlighhtened country that supports its arts and public television stations.
6) I am making a ballet documentary, and PBS is probably my only hope of ever getting it released broadcast in the USA. But as you say, no one is funding or supporting dance films now, and only v. limited classical arts programmiing--despite what PBS Pres. Paula Kerger is trying to initiate.
7) FYI: THE BIG LOOPHOLE ALL COMMERCIAL/CABLE NETS USE: The original rule was 12min/hr of commercials, if interspersed with "programming/program content". But what counts as program content? "We'll be right back to....", or a promotion about a network program "Watch 2&1/2 morons tonight at 8pm, or more spicy stuff later" ALL of that is considered "Program Content" So 12mins of commercials + 1-2 minute of show promos or "we'll be right back..." and they can do another 12min. So close to 20+min of ads/commercials per hour. Add all that up, and it will NEVER EVER EVER equal the time of a Pledge break (or pledge week) on PBS.
8) I too agree that all the pop, rock, folk, nostalgia music fests need to be on other networks or less often on PBS. And though the NEA studies continually show that more people attend/view dance performances than opera, that seems to be the only classical programming PBS shows these days.
9) Help PBS survive so I don't have to keep writing the same thesis over and over and over.
10) Anyone concerned about Congress/public support of CPB/PBS/NPR etc. should investigate something called "The Balance Amendment" to the PBS Act 17 U.S.C section 138 or 238 can't remember which) and the demise of the Fairness Doctrine before that. I am sick of politics trying to control programming. And the 9 out of 10 who watch PBS etc. but don't support it.
Sorry for the rant, but as you all know, I have an affinity, and past experience with, if not personally working there or elsewhere at the moment.

#15 volcanohunter

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 08:30 AM

Unfortunately, I don't live "north of the border" or in Europe, or Japan, or any other culturally enlighhtened country that supports its arts and public television stations.

OT: Generally speaking, Canada is not culturally enlightened. There happen to be two provincial educational channels, British Columbia's and the Franco-Ontario one, which have a weekly slot, dedicated to classical music, and where ballet gets an airing from time to time. (The Anglo-Ontario network pays no attention to the arts, but it does a fair job with everything else.) Today they are what PBS used to be, and certainly BC's Knowledge Network actively seeks the financial support of its viewers. But neither network can afford to produce its own arts content apart from a few shorts.

However, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is a proof that a massive government subsidy guarantees nothing. What the CBC spends its money on these days is Coronation Street imports, several painful sitcoms, Hockey Night in Canada, a late-night chat show hosted by a former VJ and absolutely no arts programming. This, evidently, is what the public wants. It pains me to see PBS gradually going down the same route, because in the CBC's case it's been a road of no return.


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